The Mountains Are Getting Higher – The Trek

Day 102

The four of us started early, this time to beat the late afternoon thunderstorms. After walking less than a mile, I came across a 1,500 mile engraved wooden sign attached to a tree. Wow, I hiked three times the distance of the Colorado trail!

Connecticut is so good at signage in camping areas. Each has a map and wooden panels for features such as the bear box and sink. Viewpoints also have signs.

Shortly after Bear Mountain, we came across the Massachusetts border. I’ve been to the state before, a visit to Boston, but never hiked there. We took a groupie and a long snack break. The trail continued into the Ravine des Sages, which was absolutely stunning. The stream meandered among moss-covered rocks and often formed deep pools. We stopped to clean in one of these pools. I sat next to a stream of water that tickled the soles of my feet as I lowered them.

Next came the ascent of Mount Race. The trail meandered along the edge of the mountain, providing fantastic views of the New England countryside. Raptors swirled on thermals far above. The actual summit was difficult to determine, one of many flat rocks among the stunted trees. Then the trail descended less than 500 feet before climbing Mount Everett. Wooden steps were bolted into the steeper sections of rock so the climb to the top was quick. I grabbed a snack and waited for Hobble-It and All The Way.

The descent from Mount Everett was smoother than I expected. The three of us encountered Serendipity near the Glen Brook refuge. The campsite was my favorite terrain, covered in pine needles. We didn’t even go to the shelter because the restrooms, bear box, and water were all close to the trail. Sonic camped before Mount Race. If there were thunderstorms, they passed by us.

Day 103

I had a quiet morning, sleeping until 6am and cooking my oatmeal. Usually I cold soak it these days. Then it was an eight mile hike to US 7. Half a mile from the road junction we came across the trail magic of a group called the Sheffield Trail Angels. It was exceptional! I especially enjoyed the fresh watermelon slices and dill pickle spears. My friends had grilled burgers.

It was Hobble-It’s birthday and his sister Heather met us at US 7. They drove us to the Great Barrington Travel Lodge where All The Way got a room. He graciously let Serendipity, Hobble-It, and me use his shower. Then we drove downtown, stopping at a cute yellow cafe that offered smoothies. I had one with blueberries, peanut butter and oat milk. The shop owner gave us a free trail mix when he found out we were hiking in the AT.

Heather and Hobble-It went to get Sonic while Serendipity, All The Way and I went to the outdoor store. It was a fancy store and there was no fuel for the stove, although All The Way had a nice fanny pack. In the meantime, I noted that it was getting late and we still had a lot to do, would we hike this afternoon as planned? Serendipity immediately relented, checking hotel availability. She likes to stay in town. I was on the fence, but easily swayed.

I’m learning to ride the current of trail experiences. Since the end is nearer, there is a subtle urgency to reaching Katahdin, but the fun is all in the journey.

We all ended up at Baba Louie’s for a late lunch. Money Stache and Hot Mess were already there, so they sat down with us for a bit. Hot Mess has a stress fracture in his foot and is off the track for 10 days. She gave us food and her canister of fuel. I hope she heals during her break! The restaurant had an amazing homemade sourdough gluten free pizza crust. Sonic and I traded a few slices between us. My pizza had sweet potatoes, parsnips and fennel with the cheeses, very unique.

Sonic and I wandered around downtown while the others were restocking. We found postcards, took pictures on rainbow crosswalks and bought ice cream. Back at the hotel, I shared a room with Serendipity and Hobble-It. Money Stache crashed with the guys.

Day 104

Papa Joe, a retired local who offers donation-based rides, gave us a shuttle back to the trail. All The Way, Hobble-It and I were the first band. Joe got into the shuttle when he helped out a hiker he saw on YouTube. His service grew by word of mouth. He’s compiled some interesting stats about his runners: the male to female ratio (33% of the latest), the direction of travel, and the bags people are carrying. I was surprised that Osprey beat out Hyperlite as the most popular pack.

The three of us covered a mile and a half of flat ground before heading up the hill. It was cool in the forest. We discussed using smoothies to increase our calorie intake after the trail, until our hiker’s hunger subsides. Near the top of a climb, we spoke with a southern limiter named Mickie D. He warned us of the swarms of bugs ahead. Serendipity and Sonic caught up and we put on bug protection.

At the Tom Leonard refuge, we stopped for a snack break. I felt so happy and couldn’t help but smile as I walked. We had lunch and filtered water at the next stream. Shortly after, we stumbled across the trail magic of a nice couple who hiked the Long Trail and encountered some hikers in the first third.

I walked with Serendipity for the last four miles. We discussed yoga and listened to several Krishna Das songs. It was fun to sing along on the hike. We stopped for the day at Shaker Campground. I made oatmeal for dinner, followed by a delicious blueberry peach crisp that my sister added to my last replenishment box.

Day 105

The day started with an almost immediate climb to Tyringham Cobble, a separate hill from the mountain behind it. On the way down I ran into a guy giving a woman a ride. He pointed at me and said “he’s a thru-hiker”. I said “from Georgia” and felt like a wild creature observed in its natural environment.

I’ve been walking within range of Serendipity all morning. We did 12 miles before 1pm and reached Berkshire Lakeside Lodge. My resupply box was there and I rearranged it in my bag while the rest of our trail family arrived. We all had lunch in the lodge’s breakfast room.

I spent the afternoon hiking solo with a new heavy pack. It actually wasn’t too bad, especially since I kept my water load light, filling up from a gurgling stream. I listened to “The Two Towers”. It seemed appropriate to stride through the woods, as in the book the characters ran through the countryside and through the forest on an ent.

We camped at a farm run by the “Cookie Lady” family. When I arrived, the others were eating cookies and drinking lemonade. A lady named Ruth brought me three hot gluten free cookies which I happily ate with my dinner. Dark blue storm clouds appeared on the horizon so I pitched my tent in the grassy yard next to Sonic. Soon we were bombarded with raindrops, but that didn’t last long and my tent was comfortable.

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About Ethel Partin

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